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Zelenskyy says world narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe; Putin to boost size of Russian military

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

Europe's largest nuclear plant back on Ukraine's grid
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Europe's largest nuclear plant back on Ukraine's grid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the world narrowly sidestepped a radiation disaster on Thursday when Europe's largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from the country's power grid.

Zelenskyy warned that it was only due to backup electricity kicking in that the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia power plant was able to operate safely.

"Every minute the Russian troops stay at the nuclear power plant is a risk of a global radiation disaster," Zelenskyy said. He called on the international community to help force Russian forces to immediately withdraw from the territory of the power plant.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering an increase in his country's armed forces by 137,000. That comes as the Kremlin's onslaught on Ukraine enters its seventh month.

Authorities in the Zaporizhzhia region are distributing potassium iodide tablets to residents in case of a radiation leak

Authorities in the Zaporizhzhia region have begun to distribute potassium iodide to residents living near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a Ukrainian official confirmed to NBC News.

The distribution of potassium iodide tablets to residents in a 50-kilometer radius of the plant began today. Regional health authorities are telling residents to save the tablets in case there is a future radiation leak.

Volodymyr Marchuk, a spokesman for the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, told NBC News that the government would instruct people to take the tablets.

Potassium iodide can be used as a medication to treat radiation emergencies.

— Amanda Macias

Two vessels carrying more than 58,000 metric tons of agricultural products approved to leave Ukraine

ISTANBUL, TURKIYE - AUGUST 09: An aerial view of "Glory" named empty grain ship as Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye and the United Nations (UN) of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) conduct inspection on vessel in Istanbul, Turkiye on August 09, 2022. The UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed a deal on July 22 to reopen three Ukrainian ports -- Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny -- for grain that has been stuck for months because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month. (Photo by Ali Atmaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it approved two vessels carrying grains and other crops to leave Ukrainian ports.

The vessels are carrying a total of 58,750 metric tons of grain and food products under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

So far, the Joint Coordination Center, or JCC, has approved the departure of more than 30 ships from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

State Department confirms the death of an American citizen in Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen train with commercial drones in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, on Aug. 13, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The State Department confirmed an American citizen was killed in Ukraine due to Russia's war.

"We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine," a State Department spokesperson told NBC News when asked about the death first reported by Newsweek. "We are in touch with the family and providing all possible consular assistance.

"Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add," the spokesperson said, adding that the State Department offered condolences "to the families of all whose lives have been lost as a result of Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine."

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy says he spoke with NBC host Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon 
Theo Wargo | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke with NBC late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon.

"We discussed options for cooperation that would bring even more world attention to the events in Ukraine. This topic needs to be continuously raised to the top, and famous people can help us with this," Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"Jimmy, thank you for your attention to Ukraine and our struggle for freedom. We will be glad to see you on Ukrainian land," Zelenskyy added.

Andriy Yermak of Zelenskyy's office shared a photo of the video call on Twitter.

"The president invited Jimmy Fallon to Ukraine," Yermak wrote.

— Amanda Macias

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.

Russian forces stole entire grain harvest in Luhansk region, Ukraine says

The wheat upload on the field near the village of Zgurivka in the Kyiv region, while Russia continues the war against Ukraine. August 9, 2022.
Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

A Ukrainian official in Luhansk told reporters that Russian forces took the region's entire grain harvest to Russia. 

Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk RMA, said that Russian forces took at least 200,000 tons of grain from the region.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its troops in Ukraine have targeted agricultural products.

— Amanda Macias

State Department warns that Russian forces and their proxies are 'singling out' Americans in Ukraine

A picture shows a view of the US embassy in Kyiv on May 18, 2022. There is an American military officer in Ukraine as part of the U.S. embassy's defense attache, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, but the stance that U.S. troops will not be fighting in the Ukraine war has not changed.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The State Department reiterated that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine and cited new reports that Americans will be targeted by Russian troops.

"Russian forces and their proxies are singling out U.S. citizens in Ukraine for detention, interrogation, or harassment because of their nationality," the State Department wrote in an updated travel advisory.

"U.S. citizens have also been singled out when evacuating by land through Russia-occupied territory or to Russia or Belarus," the advisory added.

The State Department added that U.S. citizens seeking emergency assistance should email KyivACS@state.gov.

— Amanda Macias

Putin has likely fired six generals for poor advancement in Ukraine, U.K. intelligence says

Russian President Vladimir Putin seen at the plenary session during the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum SPIEF 2022, on June 17, 2022 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Getty Images

The British Ministry of Defense said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu have likely "fired at least six generals for not advancing quickly enough" in capturing Ukrainian territory.

Moscow's claim that it has ordered the war to slow in Ukraine is "deliberate misinformation," the British ministry added.

"Russia's offensive has stalled because of poor Russian military performance and fierce Ukrainian resistance," the British wrote in an intelligence update posted to Twitter.

"Under Shoigu's orders, the forces operating in Ukraine have repeatedly missed planned operational timelines."

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley and British counterpart share intelligence on Ukraine

US Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, holds a press briefing about the US military drawdown in Afghanistan, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC September 1, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke on the phone with his British counterpart Chief of the Defense Staff Adm. Sir Tony Radakin about the war in Ukraine.

"The military leaders discussed items of mutual interest and shared assessments regarding the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine," according to a Pentagon readout of the call.

"The United Kingdom and the United States share a long history of mutual support and cooperation, which are cornerstones of the strong alliance and special relationship," the readout added.

Milley met with his British counterpart last month in Sydney, Australia.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine says Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant reconnected to its grid

Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom says one reactor at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been reconnected to the Ukrainian grid and is once again supplying the country with electricity, Reuters reported.

It comes one day after Europe's largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from the grid for the first time in its history.

— Sam Meredith

Lukashenko says Belarusian planes ready to carry nuclear weapons

Lukashenko is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says the eastern European country's SU-24 warplanes have been refitted to carry nuclear armaments.

Lukashenko said Belarus had agreed on the move with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Belarus is a close ally of Moscow and allowed its territory to be used for Russia to invade Ukraine.

"If god forbid some serious provocation against Belarus happens, our targets have been locked in. Decision-making centers. We know them," Lukashenko told reporters, according to Belarusian state-owned news agency Belta.

"If they start making problems, Belarus may be worse off but the answer will be instantaneous," he added.

— Sam Meredith

Images show traces of Russia's war in Ukraine over the last 24 hours

A general view of the Ukrainian railway station damaged by a Russian missile strike in Chaplyne, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 25, 2022. At least 25 people have been killed in a Russian rocket attack on the Chaplyne railway station as Ukraine marked its Independence Day.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A destroyed house following a Russian missile strike in Chaplyne, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 25, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Damaged military vehicles captured from Russian army on display at the Khreschatyk Street in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 25, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen stand atop an armoured vehicle in Kharkiv region on August 25, 2022.
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images
Tanks captured from Russian army on display at the Khreschatyk Street in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 25, 2022 as the Kremlin's war in Ukraine continues.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Sam Meredith

Ukraine says all reactors of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant still disconnected

Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom says all six reactors of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine are still disconnected from the country's power grid, Reuters reported.

The company added there are currently no issues with the plant's machinery or its safety systems.

— Sam Meredith

Zelenskyy says world narrowly avoided radiation disaster

Zelenskyy says the world narrowly escaped a radiation disaster on Thursday when Europe's largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from Ukraine's power grid.
Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the world narrowly escaped a radiation disaster on Thursday when Europe's largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from Ukraine's power grid.

Zelenskyy said it was only thanks to backup electricity kicking in that the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia power plant was able to operate safely. He said the power plant had been cut off as a result of Russian shelling causing nearby fires, allegations that the Kremlin has denied.

"The emergency protection of the power units worked — after the last working line of the plant's power return to the Ukrainian power system was damaged by Russian shelling," Zelenskyy said in an evening address.

He called on the international community to help force Russian forces to immediately withdraw from the power plant, warning that "every minute the Russian troops stay at the nuclear power plant is a risk of a global radiation disaster."

— Sam Meredith

'The world is experiencing the worst food security crisis any of us have ever seen,' U.S. ambassador to UN says

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to the media after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., February 17, 2022.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The world "is experiencing the worst food security crisis any of us have ever seen," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The ongoing food crisis was triggered by Covid-19, strained supply lines, higher energy costs and rising temperatures, she said.

"In many conflicts around the world, food is intentionally blocked or destroyed and dictators use starvation as a weapon of war," Thomas-Greenfield said in a speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

"We see this no more acutely than with Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Before the war, Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost a quarter of global grain exports. But now Ukraine's once rolling wheat fields have become battlefields," she said, slamming Moscow's weaponization of food.

"It matters because it affects us economically. Food security is directly linked to economic growth. And it matters because food insecurity leads us to political and social instability. And that endangers us all," she said.

— Amanda Macias

Biden speaks with Zelenskyy about more aid to defend against Russia

President Joe Biden speaking to Vladimir Putin from the White House, Dec. 30, 2021.
Source: White House Photo

President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to congratulate him on Ukraine's Independence Day.

Biden also "expressed his admiration for the people of Ukraine, who have inspired the world as they defended their country's sovereignty over the past six months," according to a White House readout of the call.

The president reaffirmed U.S. commitment to support Ukraine and provided an update on additional military aid.

"The two leaders also called for Russia to return full control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to Ukraine and for International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA access to the plant," the readout added.

— Amanda Macias

Putin signs decree to increase size of Russia's military

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the size of the Russian military from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, an announcement on its government web portal said, as the war in Ukraine passes its six-month mark.

The order will be effective January 1 and will see a rise in combat personnel of 137,000 to 1.15 million.

Russia has steadily cast a wider net as to who it's willing to recruit as conscripts, including prisoners, retired military personnel, older men and those with only a middle-school level education. Putin reportedly expected the invasion, which the Kremlin calls its "special military operation," to last only a few days before taking the capital Kyiv.

Russia's military has instead lost several generals and is estimated by U.S. intelligence to have lost around 15,000 servicemen, though Moscow has not released any recent military casualty figures itself.

Deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexandrovsky Garden near the Kremlin wall in Moscow on June 22, 2022.
Yekaterina Shtukina | Afp | Getty Images

— Natasha Turak

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